Kids 101: for writers and parents

Eldest is in the process of a huge class project for English.  His group is making an infomercial.  Needless to say, our house was the hot spot for filming Butter Nuggets.  Yeah, I know, total slang with a twist.  I’m sure Mr. Henry will approve.

The premise behind this cheesy cracker is that it makes your wish for bigger and better come true.  Just sprinkle Butter Nuggets onto your toy car and *shazowy* it’s a full size Mazda. 

Dipping your toes in the plastic swimming pool not good enough?  *kabam*  It’s a full size watering hole.

My favorite, however, is one Eldest will regret.  One of the gals is talking on her cell phone when her little “brother” (my youngest) annoys the heck out of her.  She wishes for a big brother. 

Enter Eldest, wearing Youngest Son’s outfit from the previous take.  Oh joyful laughfest.  This coming from the kid who refused to wear his rain jacket in kindergarten because someone called him a fireman.  The shirt barely covered his rib cage.  We won’t talk about the shorts.  At least not on the blog.

But it does bring to mind a question for both parents and juvenile lit writers.  How many of us are truly tapped into the world these children are living? 

In so many ways, the world is a different place than when we were growing up.  Kids are immersed in technology.  Friendships are born of ten word texts and virtual games.  Hand held devices are interacted with more fervently than a real person.  We can see this with the naked eye.  

But underneath it all kids are still kids.  They laugh and cry, love and hate and are passionately funny.  Hang with them before writing about them.  Hang with them when raising them.  Get to know them–really know them–and I promise you won’t be disappointed. 

Kids are great people. 

They are smart, friendly and social.  Make them pizza and let them talk.  Crack a root beer and listen.  Make yourself available and you’ll be amazed at how readily they accept you in their lives. 

If you write for kids, you must know your audience.  They are more than your memories and better than the outward signs you see in the mall.  If you are raising them, it is vital to create a connection of communication and respect. 

Laugh with them, love them and enjoy them before they eat too many Butter Nuggets. 

As funny as it was to see the “transformation” of the younger brother to the older brother in the space of an out-take, this section of the infomercial really hit home.  Kids grow up way too fast. 

As parents and/or writers, how do you stay connected to the younger set?  Do you feel it’s important to know kids individually or is it okay to lump them as a whole?  Do you have someone to give you an honest eye roll and let you know you’re on target, or are you guessing based on your own memories?

Because I can tell you that memories are faulty.  If we base our work off them, we will be doomed as writers.  Ditto for parents. 

hugs~ cat

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8 responses to “Kids 101: for writers and parents

  1. It’s important to know kids individually, for sure! I think about me and my three siblings and how we were raised in the same loving environment with the same lessons and morals and yet we all turned out so differently based on our own choices! It’s vital to observe this for all people, especially children, because kids are more honest about who they are and what they want. It’s not until later when people start channeling the fake version of themselves.

    I stay connected to the younger set by spending time with my 5 nieces and nephews, ages 5 months to 10 years. My 5-year-old nephew plays teeball, and watching his games is so entertaining! There’s a lot of difference between a young 5-year-old and a 5-y-o who’s almost turning 6! Observing little things like that can make a big impact on my writing.

    Your son’s English project sounds really great and I hope his group gets an A!

    • Laura,

      It’s so fun to watch kids grow and change. And they mature so quickly at the young end of the spectrum. You’re absolutely right–a just turned five and an almost turning six are two totally different creatures! Enjoy your time as both an aunt and as a learning experience for writing. These times are precious.

      His project does sound fun. I’m glad they’re filming it here so I get to watch it in the making. The bloopers are hilarious!

  2. Excellent post, Cat! You do need to know your reader. I know my kids’ friends love to be at our house. My oldest has often been away while her friends are here hanging out with me. And it’s not because I’m so cool, either. I listen, I joke, I guide, and I listen some more. They are a great group of kids and an extension of our family. Another great thing about it is that they will be your beta readers, too! They’ll honestly let you know what’s working and what isn’t. Kids are great, and underneath all the lingo, techno-savvy skills, and creative clothing – they’re still just kids.

    Btw, the infomercial sounds so fun! I bet you guys had a great time. 🙂

    • TK, it’s invaluable to have a house full of your audience! They do make the best betas because they are so honest. Funny, when I asked my big sister to read, she skirted some issues a bit–afraid to hurt my feelings. My son, however, said, Uh uh. Why are you so wordy! Just say it and be done with it.

      Gotta love that perspective.

  3. I’m so fortunate that my son talks to me alot. He tells me LOTS of things. I talk to his friends too. I hang out with my nieces for the younger crowds perspective. As a parent I cling to these last years of being a kid for my son. I hope by hanging onto his legs and making him drag me along, I’ll slow him down a little. 🙂 Not really, but they do go by so very fast. Childhood is but the blink of an eye in terms of the liftetime of a person. Great post! The Butter Nuggets project sounds like fun!

    • Lisa,

      The years do fly by. I know that sounds so cliched, but it is so true. Enjoy them while you have them. learn from them when you can and love them always.

      I understand the pants leg thing. I think the most annoying things are the things I miss the most sometimes.

      ~ cat

  4. Spot on!! Kids are very different from when I was a kid. And they’re very different from how they were when I started teaching too. It really is important to keep in touch with real kids to see how they act and react today. This is one of the reasons I love teaching! 🙂

    • Jemi, your appreciation for them is what makes you such a great teacher. Being immersed in their culture is what will make you a great writer for the younger set.

      You’re a Jem all the way around!

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